Dangerous new coal virus rampant in Canberra

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

The outbreak of coal-20 virus – which brings death and ill health to the community but not carriers – has significant implications for the health of all Australians and the international community. 

TO DATE, we know that this retrovirus – which resides in super-spreaders, mainly males, who suffer only selective mental derangements – is incurable.

Unfortunately, the overt symptoms in many members of the National Party have led to the recognition that dangerous carriers also reside in the Liberal and Labor Parties.

Rumour has it that the virus is introduced in food provided by fossil fuel industries at their frequent meetings with politicians. Like poliovirus, it enters the body through the intestine and travels to the nervous system

Coal-20virus is unique by causing deaths and ill health in the community but not in those carrying the virus.

Doctors are angry and upset by this suffering and call for isolation and education of the carriers and spreaders.

The worrying issue is that the Coalition, now joined by Labor, has a coal policy which harms the health of thousands in order to protect the jobs of miners as political expediency.

So let us move from speculation about the nature of coal-21 virus disorder to the irrefutable medical and scientific facts — the impacts on the community.

In Australia

Coal-fired power stations produce air pollutants which cause illness and deaths. Epidemiological studies show that the proposed extension of the life of the Vales Point Power Station will result in about 46 premature deaths each year, 40 babies born underweight, and 59 new cases of diabetes. These lives and $11 million payment from the Commonwealth is the price for Coalition unity and their power.

The NSW Government is under pressure to extend the life of half of the Liddell Power Station at a cost of $100 million per year with an estimated 12 deaths per year.

In Australia, there are approximately 3,000 deaths per annum due to urban air pollution — more than the national road toll and coal-fired power stations contribute about half.

These deaths are preventable by using renewable energy technology.

Mining to produce this coal carries an additional health toll for the miners in Australia which has lax safety regulations that have allowed black lung disease to re-emerge.

In the world community

Air pollution is the world's largest environmental threat to health and is responsible each year for an estimated 6·5 million deaths. Fossil fuel combustion in high-income and middle-income countries and biomass burning in low-income countries are the main causes of both air pollution and climate change.

Australia contributes to this pollution as the world’s leading exporter of coal.

Other developed countries are appalled at our unbridled expansion of coal mining. It will affect our standing and ultimately our trade.

The inevitable transition from coal

The world has to lower greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent this decade to have any chance of maintaining warming at 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Recent drought, heatwaves and fires in Australia should logically have us eager to transition from fossil fuels for few other measures will be as effective in the short term.

Mr Morrison indicates that emissions will be reduced by unspecified technology with the implications that coal production will continue — to save jobs. Mr Albanese now supports Adani and states that coal will be needed for some decades to come.

This illustrates the most dangerous effect of the coal-20virus — the infected brain recognises it does not have the ability to deliver transition, nor does it believe it is necessary.

Transition is a difficult task and it has yet to be successfully accomplished by governments in Australia. There are no plans for sudden inevitable closures as occurred in Hazelwood.

The successful closure of the Port Augusta Power Station and nearby coal mine was planned and executed by doctors, scientists, unions other community groups and local government, all of whom wished for a healthy future for the town. It may not have occurred if the Federal Government had involved itself.

The planning for the Port Augusta transition and its execution is described here (appendix A). It is vital reading for coal-20virus sufferers.

To save lives and improve community health, medical opinion would have sufferers of coal-20virus quarantined. Perhaps on a cruise ship to sail around the world? Mr Morrison might insist he be captain and if the ship did survive, perhaps re-education on science, technology and governance on Christmas Island till the 2022 Election, might be the best treatment.

Dr David Shearman AM is a founder of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University.

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